“Good villains make good thrillers,” Hitchcock supposedly declared. And if there is better proof of his thesis in a world where Alan Rickman is no longer with us than “Villains,” I can’t think of it.
Jeffrey Donovan of “Burn Notice” puts moviegoers and filmmakers on notice that he can be bad, and wickedly funny at it, in this tour de force. Looking for a good heavy for your action pic or horror tale? Donovan is open for business and taking your calls.
He is George, oily smooth, silkily Southern and as devious as he is deviant in this story of two couples — both on the wrong side of the law, one wholly evil — that meet, by chance and mix it up in a murderous game of cat and mouse.
Filmmakers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen haven’t reinvented the wheel or delivered a masterpiece in their breakout film. It’s predictable to a fault, but serviceable, tight, well-acted and amusingly pitched.
And they hired themselves a doozy of a heavy to carry it.
Maika Monroe (“It Follows”) and another of those damned Skarsgårds, Bill Skarsgård (Pennywise in “It”) play a hold-up duo straight out of “Pulp Fiction.”
Wearing bizarre Halloween masks, we see them brandish a gun and HUGE crowbar as they noisily knock over a convenience store…after they figure out how to get the dang register open.
They’re manic, amped up, impulsive and horny, and you know what that implies. When they run out of gas making their getaway “to Florida,” they need “a creative boost” to figure out what to do.
The “boost” goes up their noses. It’s probably why they forgot to steal gas when they were robbing a gas station.
They grab their stash and set off in search of a car, and stumble into a big, newish and empty house in the middle of the the woods. Lots of antiques of the “mid-century modern” style decorate it. But dang, no keys can be found to the car in the garage.
Let’s look for something to siphon the gas out of the car with, something to hold the gas in, and gas up our OWN car!
That’s when they see the cellar. We’ve seen THAT movie. So has Jules (Monroe).
“Oh, I’m not going down THERE.”
Mickey won’t be dissuaded, although in this couple, he’s more of the “flight” than “fight” in the relationship.
There’s a kid down there, chained up. Jules won’t leave without freeing her, despite Mickey’s protests. And the delay in figuring that out is how they miss the warning that a stored video camera holds, and how they’re still there when the owners of this comfy abode return.
Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick) is alarmed. I mean, she’s got a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes in her arms. George (Donovan) is smoother, not the least bit panicked at the pistol stuck in his face.
“That’s just our sweetie pie,” he drawls of the chained child. Can’t we reach “some kind of compromise?”
Jules and Mickey are “Pulp Fiction” profane and wound up. George and Gloria are Southern genteel. All are villains, it’s just a question of degree.
Let the games begin.
The men size each other up. George is sure of how much “wish you hadn’t gone down those stairs.” Mickey notes their ancient TV and declares “I don’t think you guys watch TV a lot, which I think is weird!”
The women are competing visions of “motherhood,” one delusional, the other bat-poop crazy.
It looks like a fair fight.
The most sophisticated filmmaking touch is the grainy, old-home movies flashback (and flash-forward, to their seaside Florida sea shell shop dream) that the youngsters experience when the tables are turned.
The best lines all belong to George. “There ain’t a sweeter sound in the world than a man trying hard not to scream.”
“Villains” doesn’t hold many surprises, but it’s fun to see the bad-people vs. bad people who have met by accident scenario, a familiar thriller trope, play out.
The violence is rattling, the tension nerve-fraying and the baddest-of-the-bad-guys?
“Who RAISED you, boy? Making a woman cry like that?”
Hell, he’s the reason to see these “Villains.”
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some violence, drug use and sexual content.
Cast: Maika Monroe, Bill Skarsgård, Jeffrey Donovan, Kyra Sedgwick
Credits: Written and directed by Dan Berk, Robert Olsen. An Alter release.
Running time: 1:22